Chronic Stress and its Effects on Women of Low Socioeconomic Status

People of low socioeconomic status in the United States and throughout the world face significantly more obstacles that impact their health and well-being than wealthier people. These obstacles can lead to higher rates of mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. They can lead to poor health, unhealthy diets and even increased mortality. 

Chronic stress, specifically, is often the catalyst for a wide range of diverging health issues. What can we do to help women from low-income backgrounds cope with stress?

Fund and Support Psychological Support Programs

Many people are not adequately equipped with the skills necessary to cope with emotional and mental distress on their own. When it comes to chronic stress, it becomes even harder to find healthy ways of managing and coping. Counseling or therapy can often be the solution, but only a small percentage of people from low-income backgrounds can afford traditional therapy.

There is no one simple solution for this problem. It is part of the much wider issue of affordability of mental health services for the general population. Some specialists propose integrating mental health services into the primary care settings and using a patient-centered medical home model. This model helps reduce healthcare costs and puts emphasis on including behavioral health integration into primary care. 

Other options include promoting and supporting organizations that provide mental health services. For example and organization like Open Path Psychotherapy Collective is dedicated to providing low cost mental health services. Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance offers free support groups across the U.S. Your local community may even have low-cost mental health clinics.

Encourage Increase of Minimum Wage

Many women of low socioeconomic status must survive on minimum wage. The federal minimum wage in the United States is $7.25. This is hardly a living wage. Even in cities where the minimum wage is double that, minimum wage earners still struggle to support themselves and their families. 

It is critical to raise the federal and local minimum wages to help reduce the stress that women from low-income backgrounds face. 

A useful resource for learning about and promoting the rise of the federal minimum wage is Raise the Minimum Wage. You can learn about ongoing campaigns, read the stories of people working for minimum wage struggling to make ends meet, and share your own relevant experiences. 

Help Women Attain Higher Education

Higher education is not directly tied to reduced chronic stress, but it does provide a wealth of other benefits that can help women live more secure, fulfilled, and therefore significantly less stressful lives. 

The most obvious benefit of higher education is the opportunity for greater earning potential. One of the biggest stressors for women from low-income backgrounds is living paycheck to paycheck. They live in constant fear of not affording the most basic necessities or not being able to support their family. Higher earnings as a result of higher education can significantly ease these burdens for many women. 

Another amazing benefit of women achieving higher education is an increase in self-actualization and the possibility of expressing their talents and passions in a productive fashion. This is particularly important for women of low socioeconomic status, who may not always have opportunities for self-expression and self-discovery when the task of trying to make ends meet is their number one priority. But having such opportunities are incredibly important for living a fulfilled and stress-free life. 

The Soroptimist Live Your Dream Awards help women from low income backgrounds pursue their education goals by providing them with education grants. You can help this noteworthy cause by making a donation to help women achieve their educational goals or volunteering as a judge for the awards.

Valerie Shamshyna is a senior undergraduate student studying biology at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is originally from Ukraine but moved to the United States as a teenager. Her biggest passions are wildlife conservation and climate change; sexology and issues of sex education worldwide; and issues of equality in all senses—from gender and race, to income and food insecurity. Outside of studying, working and research, Valerie loves to go on long walks with her dog, listen to podcasts, ride horses, and bake treats.

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